Conformation Corner: Groom to Win

How far strategic grooming can take your dog in the ring depends on the judge’s preferences.

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Q: When I go to dog shows, I see a lot of time and effort being spent on brushing, combing and trimming the dogs. Are grooming routines the same for all breeds? Is grooming important to judges?

A: You bet judges value grooming, but not always in the way you might think. Showing a dirty, matted, ill-kempt dog with nails in need of trimming makes the exhibitor look unprepared and is insulting to the judge. All dogs, no matter the breed or the class they are entered in (and I think this holds for companion events, as well) should be free of mats and have clean ears, a bathed and brushed coat, and trimmed nails.

Once the basics are covered, preparation for the conformation ring differs depending on the breed being shown, the breed-standard requirements and the conventions of ring presentation for that breed. The definition of “correct coat presentation” varies greatly from breed to breed, and it’s the exhibitor’s responsibility to know what is correct and what is unacceptable.

Exhibitors of short-coated breeds, for the most part, get a pass in this department. All they need do is present a clean dog with properly trimmed nails and clean teeth. Never forget those teeth. Looking into a mouth filled with yellow, tartar-covered teeth is not a pleasant experience for the judge. Dental problems can lead to a bad bite.

Owners of coated breeds have a lot more work on their hands. Just how much work depends on the breed and the exhibitor’s opinion about what is right and wrong. In every case, the ultimate authority should be the breed standard, not what is personally appealing to the exhibitors.

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